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Wednesday, January 31, 2024
5:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)
Thursday, February 1, 2024
11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)
Karen Ann Vournakis, 82, of Charleston, South Carolina, wife of John Nicholas Vournakis entered into eternal life Sunday, January 21, 2024. Her Funeral Service will be held Thursday, February 1, 2024 in the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity, 30 Race Street, Charleston, SC at 11:00 a.m. Interment follows at Live Oak Memorial Gardens. Her family will also receive friends on Wednesday, January 31, 2024 from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. in the J. HENRY STUHR, INC. DOWNTOWN CHAPEL, 232 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC where the Trisagion Service will be held at 6:00 p.m. Karen’s favorite color was purple. If you chose, please include purple in your attire to honor her.
Karen was born on June 12, 1941. Her maiden name was Munro; she was of Scottish descent with her family’s entry into the U.S. dating back to the 1800’s. She came from a small midwestern town, Chelsea, MI located about 60 miles west of Detroit. Her father Ross Munro worked in a local factory, Federal Screw Works, that supplied the automobile business with machined parts. Her mother, Veva, had several jobs in town and was a homemaker raising Karen and Loren, her older brother of 12 years. Ross and Veva were blessed with Karen later in life as she was born to them while they were in their early 40’s. Unusual for the time, one could call her a “miracle baby.”
Chelsea was a boomtown while she was growing up, and later escaped the economic blite that affected many small Michigan towns, having diversified its economy with non-automotive business (ever hear of Jiffy Mix?). Karen spent her whole life in Chelsea, graduating in 1959 from Chelsea High School (The Bulldogs) until she attended Albion College. There she studied Art and Psychology and received a dual bachelor’s degree, but not until 1966 - you might say that life got in the way of her education. While at college she met a young Greek boy John Vournakis who was to become the love of her life. They were married on September 9, 1961 in Chelsea and moved to Ypsilanti, MI. John attended graduate school at the University of Michigan, while Karen worked as a graphic designer for a local advertising agency. Not long after they were married, they were blessed with the birth of their only child Christopher in March of 1963. Soon after the young family moved to Ithaca, NY where John pursued graduate studies at Cornell University. Karen continued to work to support the family, this time as a lab technician supporting research at the university. It was important to Karen to finish her degree, so once Christopher was a little older, she moved back to Albion (living with John’s parents) to finish her college education. John stayed in Ithaca, making the drive back and forth on a regular basis. With her education complete the next few years followed the path of John’s education with the family living in Ithaca, Prague, Cambridge (MA), Brookline (MA) and finally settling in Syracuse (NY) in 1973. There she started her first business Photographica, a graphic design firm. This is also where Karen sought her advanced degree, completing her Master of Fine Arts at Syracuse University in 1978, graduating Magna Cum Lauda. A few years later in 1982 she took a role as Assistant Professor of Art at Colgate University, her first teaching role which lasted five years. Grass never grew long under Karen and John’s feet, so after 12 snowy years in Syracuse they moved further north to Hanover, NH, both obtaining roles at Dartmouth College. Karen worked as a visiting professor in her second teaching role and as a photographer for the Medical School Photography & Illustration Department.
Her artwork was evolving, having begun as a painter in oils and watercolors, then moving to printmaking (lithography and silkscreen), she had landed on photography as her medium. As a Christmas present in 1973 John had bought her a Nikon camera. This is when she started shooting, but at the time it was one of a number of mediums she worked in. By the early 1980’s Karen was a photographer first and foremost and placed a greater emphasis on promoting her own artwork through local galleries and commercial instillations. 1995 brought another change: this time a move to Charleston, SC which would become Karen and John’s home for the next 29 years, and the remainder of their lives. In Charleston Karen focused 100% on promoting her own work through the Karen Vournakis Studio Gallery, located on historic King St. She combined her retail gallery with her workspace, including a full on-site darkroom and ran the business for 8 years. Following that Karen continued to create on her own moving her darkroom into their home. During that time she also joined the Waterfront gallery, which further defined her as a Charleston artist by bringing her into a great group of low country artist friends. In 2017 she joined the Redux Contemporary Art Center taking up residence with a studio working space. She also joined the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art as a member of its board of advisors. She continued to create artworks for the rest of her life.
Her work is represented in the public collections of the Bibliotheque National (Paris, France); the Griffin Museum of Photography (Boston. MA), the Everson Museum (Syracuse, NY); the Erie Museum (Erie PA); the Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University (Hamilton NY), Albion College Art Department Collection (Albion, Mi) and in private collections of Kidder Peabody & Co. Inc (New York, NY); Atlantic Mutual Co. (Madison NJ), Fidelity Management & Research (Boston & London), The Bank of Woodstock, Woodstock VT, the Preserve @ Indigo Run (Hilton Head, SC), and the Roper Hospital, Charleston SC.
And can still be viewed on her website at: <https://www.karenvournakis.com/gallery.php>
Karen’s creative spirit was fueled by her wonderment and curiosity of the world - focused through her artist eyes. She was an observer who took record, but also helped us see and learn something new through her framing and creative manipulations. She loved animals, having several cats over her lifetime, most importantly Maxie who was with her for 20 years. Karen was a warm friend, a great neighbor, a loving parent & grandparent and wife to John. She most importantly cared about people and stayed close to friends from all the places she lived and all the phases of her life. She embraced all and she will be missed.
She is survived by her son, Christopher N. Vournakis (Vanessa) of Huntington Beach, CA; brother, James Vournakis (Karen Sue) of Alpharetta, GA; and two grandchildren: Dillon C. Vournakis and Devan N. Vournakis and many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
Memorial gifts may be directed in lieu of flowers to either:
Redux Contemporary Art Center where they will be dedicated to Redux's art education programs. Give by mailing a gift to 1056 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403 or online at ReduxStudios.org. Please memo Karen's name.
Or Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity for their new building fund. Give by mailing a gift to 34 Race St Charleston, SC 29403 or online at gocharleston.org . Please memo Karen’s name.
Messages to the family may be directed to her son Christopher: Email: email@example.com Phone: 949-500-1693 m
The Vournakis family is planning an art retrospective of Karen’s work. Location will be Charleston, SC. Details will follow. If you are interested in attending or participating please contact Christopher.